2008 PMA Wrap-up

Fast on the heels of the Consumer Electronics Show, it was time to take another flight to Las Vegas for the Photo Marketing Association trade event—where digital cameras take center stage, not zillions of flat panel televisions.

Digitaltrends.com covered many of the announcements made prior to the event which ran from January 31 to the day before the Super Bowl—which everybody watched on those flat panel TVs! What follows are our picks for the best in show—along with a few thoughts about the wild world of digital imaging.

First of all this was a fairly boring show. This is pretty amazing when you consider a raft of new 14-megapixel D-SLRs made their appearance. As reporters normally do, we chatted during the event to discuss the hot products. Unfortunately, these were very short conversations. Can we say jaded, folks? Oh sure, there were loads of new cameras with more megapixels and camera makers continue making models easier to use than ever…think Face Detection, Smile Shutter and Blink Warning as key examples. All of these new features help you take better shots of smiling faces of friends and family—and that’s what photography is all about for the vast majority of people. Also camera manufacturers are pretty upbeat—even with a shaky economy; they’re all predicting growing sales with lower prices for consumers. These issues on the table, here are the winners from a rather ho-hum trade show.

A Real Live View

As DT readers know, I’m not a big fan of Live View for digital SLRs. In theory it’s great since it lets you frame your shots using the camera’s larger LCD screen instead of the viewfinder. Unfortunately, the way it’s currently implemented, focusing is way too slow and you need a tripod for best results. Enter the new Sony new alpha DSLR-A300 and DSLR-A350. By adding a second sensor, Quick AF Live View is now real time, focusing is very responsive and it even works in continuous (burst) shooting mode. With it you can actually hold the camera over your head and take photos. This is especially true with the A350 since it has an articulating 2.7-inch LCD screen, opening a world of shooting flexibility. On top of that, the A350 is a 14.2MP camera so you can make huge blowups or crop images to your heart’s content. I really liked this pair and they were the best in show, with the A350 the better of the two with its higher resolution and moveable LCD screen. The DSLR-A350 will cost $900 USD with an 18-70mm kit lens; the 10.2MP A300 with a fixed position LCD and kit lens will cost $800 USD. Both arrive in April.

Sony alpha DSLR-A300
Sony alpha DSLR-A300

Another Sony note: The company sent a shot across the bow of Canon and Nikon when it announced a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor and that imager would appear in a “flagship” D-SLR later this year. This is a direct assault on the 21.1MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Nikon’s D3, a pair of $5,000 USD cameras. This should be fun to watch…

Wider Than Ever

We’re big fans of wide angle point-and-shoot digicams since they’re great for landscapes and group shots. At CES Samsung introduced the NV24 HD and it was on view again at PMA in a booth with an Elvis impersonator singing “Viva Las Vegas” as showgirls danced along (remember we’re in Vegas, folks). At PMA more wide-angle cameras were announced including a bunch from Panasonic. In fact the company prides itself on a huge lineup of wide-angle point-and-shoots including its first 25mm digicam, the 10.1MP 4x zoom DMC-FX35 ($349 USD, due March). We also got a chance to play with new 28mm 10x 9.1-megapixel DMC-TZ5, the replacement for the solid TZ3, also $349 USD. Both have an Intelligent Scene Selector that automatically adjusts to the scene in front of it along with Face Detection plus they take 720p HD video. The pair has a new processor and hopefully it’ll eliminate some of the digital noise that has plagued Panasonic point-and-shoots.

Panasonic TZ5
Panasonic TZ5

More D-SLRs

No surprise here. Canon and Nikon introduced new, affordable D-SLRs in the new 12.2MP Rebel XSi and the 10MP D60. The Canon XSi is the replacement for the 10-megapixel XTi so you should see some deals on that one when the XSi arrives in April. The new Canon also has a larger LCD screen (3 inches versus 2.5) and an improved processor. Of note is the fact it comes with an image stabilized 18-55mm kit lens ($899 USD) so it can compete with other affordable D-SLRs with built-in sensor-shake stabilization (think Sony, Olympus, Pentax and Samsung). The new 10.2-megapixel Nikon D60 also comes with an 18-55mm stabilized lens and costs $749 USD. It arrives later this month.

Canon Rebel XSi
Canon Rebel XSi

Nikon D60
Nikon D60

Blue Sky Stuff

Geotate (www.geotate.com) showed a very cool technology called “geo-tagging.” With it your camera records the GPS signals beamed by satellites and it’s stored with the metadata of your JPEG (it is not a full-blown GPS device). Once you get home the supplied software goes to the Internet and translates the data into an actual location and creates a map pinpointing where you took the photo. Simply click on the map and the specific image pops up. This is very cool and something to keep an eye on later this year. The company showed a prototype built by Alket, a huge OEM camera maker. Geotate is working hard so manufacturers will incorporate the technology into their cameras. We wish them well.

Geotate
Geotate Screenshot


HD Video Surprise

PMA is not a big video show but the big boys like Sony and Canon displayed the models they announced at CES. Surprisingly, JVC decided to introduce two new high-def Everio hard drive camcorders, the GZ-HD6 and GZ-HD5, so they could stand out from the huge media buzz at CES. They were right since no other camcorders made their debut at PMA. Other than body color, the pair have similar feature sets—10x Fujinon lens, 3CCD imaging and optical image stabilization. The $1,399 USD HD6 has a 120GB HDD and can record 10 hours of 1920 x 1080 video. The $1,199 USD HD5 records for “only” five hours onto its 60-gig drive; both are due in March. If you have a new 1080p display with HDMI ver. 1.3, you’ll see 1080p video at 60 frames per second on screen. The demo we saw was quite good with reduced jaggy lines and very accurate colors.

JVC Everio GZ-HD6
JVC Everio GZ-HD6

Film Simulation

Fujifilm just can’t give up the old film routine (its name may have something to do with it). Rather than dwell in the past like Kodak, Fujifilm introduced a digital camera that offers film simulation modes. For people who remember, Fujifilm’s Velvia and Provia film stocks added a “feel” to their prints that generated millions of fans. The new FinePix S100FS does the same thing except you simply adjust the onscreen menu rather than swapping out rolls of 35mm film. This $700 USD 11.1-megapixel camera has a 14.3x zoom with a nice range of 28-400mm as well as a 2.5-inch articulating LCD, making it a nice choice for vacationers.

Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

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